I'm thrilled for my good friend and all around great writer/editor/comic writer/boardgamer/dude, Erik Arneson, and the recent release of his debut short story collection, THE THROES OF CRIME. Calculating hitmen. Corrupt politicians. Sociopathic rock singers. Incompetent private investigators. Sword-wielding orangutans. You'll find them all in THE THROES OF CRIME, a collection of 26 short stories and six true-crime essays by Derringer Award finalist Erik Arneson.
Arneson's stories, which flow effortlessly from dark noir to wicked humor, have been published by Thuglit, Needle, Otto Penzler's Kwik Krimes, Akashic Books' Mondays Are Murder, Shotgun Honey, Out of the Gutter Online, and more. THE THROES OF CRIME also features seven brand-new short stories, never before published anywhere.
All proceeds from THE THROES OF CRIME benefit the James & Jeanne Arneson Memorial Scholarship Fund, which provides financial support to graduates of Wilmot High School in Wilmot, South Dakota, who display an aptitude in creative writing by authoring a short story. The goal of the scholarship is to encourage students from Wilmot to continue writing fiction well beyond high school, to tell the stories that only they can tell. Powerful stories and funny stories and magical stories - stories the world is waiting for, even if it doesn't realize it just yet.
THE THROES OF CRIME is your debut collection. Congrats! Give me the quick pitch!
Thanks! The Throes of Crime is a collection of 26 short stories and six true-crime essays. Some of the stories are brand-new; others were previously published by Thuglit, Needle, Shotgun Honey, Out of the Gutter Online, Mary Higgins Clark Mystery Magazine, and more. The essays were first published in Duane Swierczynski’s great comic book The Black Hood.
All proceeds from the book go to a scholarship fund set up in memory of my parents to benefit graduates of Wilmot High School in Wilmot, South Dakota.
Did you notice any themes emerge over the course of putting the book together?
Some themes definitely emerged even though the stories cover a variety of times, from the mid-19th century to the present, and locations, from St. Petersburg, Russia, to Superior, Wisconsin. The table of contents is split into categories like crimes of vengeance, crime in the workplace, and partners in crime.
There’s also -- despite there being some pretty dark, noirish stories in the collection -- a good amount of humor to be found in the book.
Given your background in government, have you worked politics into your fiction?
How could I not? One of my favorites (“Twitter and Coke”) is a story written entirely in the form of tweets about a politician who really, really should not be allowed to use Twitter unsupervised.
Another (“All Alone”) is set in 1951 Philadelphia, a time when the city was embroiled in a vast web of corruption by public officials. It was so bad that at least six city employees wound up committing suicide.
What draws you to writing crime?
The fact that the stakes are so high for everyone involved. And it usually doesn’t matter if the crime seems silly on the surface, like stealing used french fry grease. If someone commits a crime, there’s probably something going on that’s worth exploring. Desperation, jealousy, greed, fear -- those are powerful things and endlessly interesting to write about.
I especially enjoy stories that touch on how the human spirit can continue to shine in life’s darkest moments.
Favorite Shotgun Honey memory?
Shotgun Honey is an amazing website. As editors, we received so many great submissions. I always loved opening a story from an author I’d never heard of before and being blown away. But my favorite memory is easy: Hanging out with you, Jen Conley, and our fearless leader Ron Earl Phillips at Bouchercon in Albany, New York.
If you could turn one of your stories into a board game, which would it be? Why?
I love this question. I’m going with “Dairy of Destruction” because the idea of a board game about a gang of barnyard animals plotting to take over the world delights me.
Top 5 board games?
My list of favorite games is always changing because there are so many great games available today. It’s a fantastic time to be a board gamer!
Pandemic Legacy is at the top of the list. Brilliant and compelling. The gameplay is superb, and the storyline that evolves over the course of repeated plays is unlike anything I’ve experienced before in a board game.
Other current favorites include Ticket to Ride: Pennsylvania (building train routes in my home state -- hard to get better than that!), Codenames (a truly genius party/word game), and America (an excellent party/trivia game). Finally, it’s been far too long since I’ve played Betrayal at House on the Hill; there’s a new expansion called Widow’s Walk that I’m looking forward to playing.
Thanks, Erik! Check out THE THROES OF CRIME on Amazon.
Erik Arneson lives in Pennsylvania with his wife and editor, Elizabeth. His first book, THE THROES OF CRIME, is available now. He hosts the Title 18:Word Crimes podcast. His comic book FORTUNE is available from Comixology, Indy Planet, and NoiseTrade. Find him at ErikArneson.com.